Valve, the popular developer behind franchises like Portal, Half-Life, and Team Fortress, and the proprietor of Steam, has been secretly building a portable PC, much like the Switch. The system is designed to run games through Steam on a Linux-based OS and could potentially launch by the end of 2021.
That’s according to a report from Ars Technica, who confirmed the device’s existence, and that it has been in development for quite a while, with multiple sources. Valve recently added new hardware-related code into the latest version of Steam. The code, first spotted by SteamDB operator Pavel Djundik, points to a device named “SteamPal.” That code is linked to a previous device called “Neptune.” There was also a reference to “Neptune Optimized Games.” At the time, the belief was that Neptune was a controller. As it turns out, it was much more than that.
According to Ars Technica, the “SteamPal” (which has no official name yet, hence the quotes) “is an all-in-one PC with gamepad controls and a touchscreen. In other words, it looks and functions like a Nintendo Switch.” It just won’t have a removable Joy-Con equivalent. When asked if Valve would be releasing more games on consoles, Valve boss Gabe Newell said that we’d be hearing more about that “by the end of this year.” Turns out Newell was thinking about something much different than the person who asked the question.
Ars Technica believes that the chip powering “SteamPal” will come from either AMD or Intel, but it’s unclear whether Valve will release multiple versions of the device. “At least one SteamPal prototype version is quite wide compared to the Nintendo Switch,” Ars Technica reports. “This extra width accommodates a slew of control options. No, Valve is likely not slapping an entire QWERTY keyboard onto its system, but the company has packed in a standard array of gamepad buttons and triggers, along with a pair of joysticks and at least one thumb-sized touchpad (in addition to the device’s touch-sensitive screen).” The device will also be able to connect to other devices via USB, but whether Valve plans to release a dock like the Switch’s is unknown.
It’s an incredibly interesting story, and could have a major impact on the way we play games. For more on the “SteamPal,” be sure to read Ars Technica’s original report through the link above.